Coach just coaching

TERRY KOSHAN and LANCE HORNBY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

With his team's collective backs against the wall, Maple Leafs coach Paul Maurice was asked if he is coaching harder.

Not sure what that means. But Maurice had a quick response.

"An old boss of mine once said that no fans comes to the game and says, 'Boy, he is really coaching hard now,' " Maurice said. "I always thought that was a great line.

"Usually your intelligence as a coach is related directly to your goalie's save percentage."

Poni rides again

Alexei Ponikarovsky returned to the lineup after missing four games with a rib injury. All told, Ponikarovsky has missed 16 games with injuries this season.

"It has been a tough season on me, I've not been injured so much in my life," Ponikarovsky said. "Hopefully it's all behind me now."

After scoring 21 goals in each of the past two seasons, Ponikarovsky had 14 in 51 games before last night.

"I think we are all hopeful there is another level with Alex," Maurice said. "I thought for a stretch he was really going, and then the injuries.

(But) he has been willing to play with things that other players just can't seem to tolerate."

To make room for Ponikarovsky, Robbie Earl was sent to the Marlies of the AHL. Earl had one assist in nine games.

BRODEUR IS BEST

Brent Sutter has not been behind the New Jersey Devils for a full season but has his mind cemented on what he thinks of Martin Brodeur.

"People say that arguably he is the best goalie in the game today," Sutter said. "To me there is no such thing as arguably. He is the best goalie in the game today."

Sutter was asked if he is concerned about burnout with Brodeur's amount of playing time.

"It's only burnout if you allow it to be," Sutter said. "We don't pre-game skate a lot. He doesn't have to worry about putting on his equipment twice a day."


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